The European Union’s drugs regulator said on Monday people with weakened immune systems should get a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, but left it to member states to decide if the wider population should get a booster.
The long-awaited guidance comes after several EU member states pre-empted the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) opinion and launched their own booster campaigns, although they vary widely over who is eligible.
The EMA said people with a severely weakened immune system should be given a third dose of the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – both based on mRNA technology – at least 28 days after their second one.
It also said a booster shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could be considered for adults with normal immune systems around six months after the second dose, but added that was up to individual countries.
“At national level, public health bodies may issue official recommendations on the use of booster doses, taking into account emerging effectiveness data and the limited safety data,” it said.
The World Health Organization has criticized rich nations for hoarding COVID-19 vaccines for booster campaigns for larger population groups, while poorer countries are struggling to rollout even first doses. (Reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt and Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru Editing by Maju Samuel and Mark Potter)